As with many people, the passing of David Carradine has left me quite shaken. David Carradine, after all, was the reason I got into consulting in the first place.
Kung Fu, the Ed Spielman TV series in which Mr. Carradine played Kwai Chang Cane, a parapatetic Shaolin monk in the American Old West, left a lasting impression on me. If you are unfamiliar with the series, it revolved around a half-Chinese half-American man trained in Kung Fu helping people out as he travelled from town to town searching for his American relatives, all the time pursued by the Chinese Emperor’s assassins.
It may be hard to believe, but when I found out about the world of Software Consulting, I realized that it was my opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream of living the life of Kwai Chang Cane. It’s a bit of a stretch, but think about what a consultant does. He travels from company to company assisting them with difficult technical issues they desperately need help to resolve.
Let me say that the reality has been as good as the dream. In the past year I’ve managed to:
05/08 – 07/08
Upgrade a billing application for a national furniture chain located just off of Jimmy Carter Boulevard from VB6 Forms to an ASP.NET 3.5 application with limited ajax functionality. In the process, I helped out a group a beleaguered shopkeepers being extorted by local thugs.
08/08 – 09/08
Gather requirements for a POC Silverlight project while investigating why a beautiful roller derby skater was killed.
10/08 – 11/08
Assist in the data migration of an insurance company’s legacy data – horribly denormalized, unindexed and lacking referential integrity – from a Paradox for DOS system to SQL Server 2008. At the same time I was able to rescue the office manager’s cousin from a Turkish prison where he was incarcerated under trumped up drug trafficking charges. I was able to do this with some help from friends who are Vietnam vets in hiding from the US government for crimes they didn’t commit.
12/08 – 03/09
Design a reporting framework for a mortgage company going through hard times that heavily leveraged third party charting tools while also arranging a new life for a protected Federal witness — who was testifying against his mobster brother — and help him to visit his sick mother before she died.
This was a fairly quick gig. I had to design and build a WPF point-of-sale application for a cruise liner. During installation of the software I teamed up with a consultant from a rival firm to defuse two sophisticated bombs aboard the cruise ship while overcoming our mutual animosity and learning to work together and ultimately develop an abiding respect for one another’s abilities.
I had some down time in June, so I reminisced about my adventures to my colleagues clip-show style while preparing for a certification exam.
If this makes consulting out to be something glamorous, I want to make it clear that this is not always the case – for instance the time I had to scrub crystal reporting data for a client or the time I had to hunt down oversized alligators in the sewers because they were eating neighborhood pets. But between those times there can, indeed, be quite a bit of excitement.
Consulting is definitely not for everyone. It takes a certain mentality, a certain desire to not have the same routine every day, and of course it never hurts if you have the ability to make plastic explosives out of a matchbox and a stick of spearmint gum or can deploy a multi-tier application with only a command line utility and the spring from a ballpoint pen.
At least I look forward to coming in to work each day knowing that there will be something new and unexpected to make it different from the day before.
And I have David Carradine to thank for setting me on this path.